#BookReview: Caraval by Stephanie Garber #MPBooks

Review of the magical and mysterious Caraval, a book everyone wants to read this year!

Caraval book cover
UK book cover

Title: Caraval

Author: Stephanie Garber

UK Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Genre: Fantasy

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Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.
Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.
When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

My Review: I’m not sure how to start this review. I absolutely loved this book, once I got into it, but wow the ending was quite a shock and left me a little speechless and just a little bit annoyed.

Caraval has really been a hyped up novel this year and I couldn’t help but want to read it after hearing so much about it. The story follow Scarlett and her sister Tella who live on the small isle of Trisda but their life is marred by their abusive father who enjoys punishing the girls for any wrong-doing. For years Scarlett has been writing to the mysterious Master of Caraval to ask for tickets to the magical show but never hears back until days before her arranged wedding to a man she has never met. When tickets arrive though there is an opportunity to finally escape their abusive father so the girls go to the island where Caraval is taking place. However as soon as they arrive Tella goes missing and Scarlett must take part in the game in order to find her sister.

At the start of the book I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. We’re quickly introduced to Scarlett and Tella along with a scene showing how brutal and twisted their father is, but despite the fast pacing of this novel and the simple descriptions I just didn’t get into this book from the very beginning. The scene didn’t feel as threatening as I thought it should and the general story up until Scarlett reaches Caraval felt almost too fast paced and I didn’t get a feel for the characters until later. However despite my initial thoughts, this story soon drew me into the magic and from then on I was hooked.

The story is told in the third person but follows Scarlett as she searches for her sister with the help, or not, of the man who brought her to the island. The world of Caraval is an interesting and really mesmerising one. It’s like a magical and dark circus show that happens at night and Scarlett quickly becomes involved in the game/performance. The magic in the story and the overall Caraval is like the old fashioned circuses that existed in Victorian times. Just like a magical act, this book is filled with surprises and twists and I’m so happy that I didn’t see any of them coming. I’m very good at spotting twists in stories and often don’t find myself surprised but this book had me hooked as I really didn’t know what was going to happen next and the story kept up this pace of twists and turns right until the end.

The ending of this book is really good. It finishes really well with surprises revealed right until the last pages and it was really satisfying to read, however the epilogue is where I felt annoyed. Something simple happens but it sets up the story for a book two, leaving certain questions in your head and though I’m eager to read book two, when it is released, and there’s nothing wrong with the ending, I’d rather have had a book two without the mini cliff-hanger ending that this epilogue created.

The book has nothing offensive in it though given the dark and twisted nature of some characters I would recommend it for teens and older. Despite the many, many reviews calling this a YA novel it is not. Teens will enjoy this book and some characters are younger but this book is a general fantasy story and not specifically a YA book which usually has more specific appeal.

Caraval is everything it’s hyped up to be and I’d certainly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading a story with lots of twists and magic and for those who enjoy stories with a historic setting. Although the book takes place in a fictional world the timeframe is the past and it just added to the magical feel of this tale.

What do you think?  Do you want to read this book or have you already?  Please do comment 🙂  You can also find me in these places: 

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#BookReview: J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World Creatures Magical Film Projections #MPBooks

A fun book/kit for Harry Potter fans!

J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World Creatures Film ProjectionsTitle: J. K. Rowling’s Wizarding World: Creatures Magical Film Projections

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Children’s/Fun Kit

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Description: Discover Dobby the House -Elf, Buckbeack the Hippogriff and other fascinating creatures from the Wizarding World in this unique book.  In a dark room, shine a light through the window on each page to project incredible scenes on the wall or ceiling.  Read along and experience extraordinary moments from J. K. Rowling’s Wizarding World like never before.

My Review:  This is an interesting and possibly fun kit for any fan of Harry Potter.  Although sold as a book and looking on the outside like a typical hardcover book, this is more of a kit when you open it up.  The basic idea of this kit is that you can project film scenes, or in this case some of the creatures from the Harry Potter world, straight onto your wall at night.  There are card rather than paper pages each with a window of clear plastic (acetate) which features some of the Harry Potter creatures.

When you open the book up you are meant to flip it all the way back, almost so the outer covers are touching each other and form a sort of triangle upright standing position with the book.  There’s an image inside the book to show you how to do this.  Once this is done, one of the card pages can actually stand up making it easy to point a torch at this page and read the text beneath.

Pages are attached on a ring rather than glued into centre

Once you have this set up you simply take a torch, or in my case my phone’s torchlight and shine it through the acetate towards a clear wall or sheet.  This has to be done in the dark so night time is best, and the book even suggests projecting this onto a tent wall!  The image on the acetate should project right onto the wall/surface and then there is a short script you can read out which relates to the picture.  The idea is that you can take it in turns playing the different characters and have fun following the script while seeing the scene projected.

One of the images to project along with its script

The whole idea of this book is really interesting and fun, there’s several different creatures to project and even a clear plastic window which you can draw your own scene on, however I do have some negatives about this kit.  For a start there are only about six scenes to project, your own being the seventh.  As well as this the script for each scene is very short, it feels like some improvisation might be necessary although I’m sure fans won’t see this as a big issue.

One of the images projected.

There are more practical problems I had with the book, the first is standing it up.  It doesn’t have a way to stand up and unless you place it on a rougher surface or hold it open with some weights on either side the book might slowly flatten.  I’ve placed my book on a blanket as the bare table was just too slippery.  The projected scenes are also very fuzzy when you shine a torch at them.  It’s a bit tricky to get the angle right and deciding how close to place the torch, but it didn’t matter how close or far I placed the torch to the acetate, the image was always quite fuzzy.  It’s still very recognisable when you see Dobby or Harry, for example, but I really thought the picture would show up clearer.  I projected the image in the picture below onto a sheet but the same happened whatever surface or wall I projected this on.

This isn’t a fuzzy photograph – this is the clearest I could get the image to project

Overall I think this is a fun idea and I doubt any Harry Potter mad fans will mind too much about the fuzzy images but it’s such a shame as it could be so much better.
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

What do you think?  Is this a book you’d enjoy or are you thinking of buying?  Please do comment 🙂  You can also find me in these places: 

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